Bitting into the Big Apple – Part I

“I Smile because New York City Happened to Me”

-Anonymous

In his Netflix special, Trevor Noah starts by saying “New York! New York! New York!” I often find tend to mimic this randomly on the street, either to myself or to the people next to me. Having completed quarter of a year in the city, it was inevitable that I do a post on all that the unstoppable city has to offer.

Meet you at 50th and Broadway! 

When you first step into the city, all those numbers and avenues can be slightly overwhelming. To those who are new to the city or are yet to visit, here is a breakdown of how the streets and avenues work:

The streets run East to West while the avenues run North to South. 

As you move northward, the street numbers start to ascend. To give you a better idea, 1st street starts at Greenwich Village and the city goes up to 220th Street which is Inwood Section.

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Avenues use a mix of numbers and names. For instance, the hotel I work at Roger Smith is located in 47th and Lexington. Confusing right?

Besides the avenues that are numbered, Lexington, Park and Madison Avenues, run between the 3rd and 5th Avenues.

Fifth Avenue is Manhattan’s central dividing line.  Streets running to its east are titled “east” (i.e. East 46th St), and to its west are titled “west” (i.e. West 46th Street).

Street address numbers begin at Fifth Avenue, and increase as they move outward (the higher the number, the farther to the east or west).

6th Ave. is also called Avenue of the Americas. There can also be other variations that one will notice across the city. For instance:

Broadway, one of Manhattan’s oldest thoroughfares (and the world’s longest) runs perpendicularly as it progresses north from the tip of Manhattan up into the Bronx.  As it criss-crosses the straight avenues, it creates large, open intersections (Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, Times Square, Columbus Circle, etc.) (For more information, check out: https://www.walksofnewyork.com/blog/manhattan-streetsmarts).

A to the Q to the R; 4, 5 , 6, maybe even 7? 

Subways, tubes, metros, across the world work differently. Some go by zones, some by color coded lines, some more complex than the others. When in New York, always pay attention to the numbers and letters even though the different lines are color coded.

To help you understand better, lines 4, 5 and 6 are all green lines, but they all take you to different destinations. Hence, it is very important to check the number or in some cases the alphabet of the subway you want to take.

The other important aspect of New York Subway is: Uptown or Downtown.

As you go towards lower street numbers, you will be taking the subway that goes Downtown, and vise versa for Uptown.

Simple right? (There’s always your best friend, Google Maps)

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Purchasing a Metro Card:

Unlike London where you can switch between the Oyster Card, or credit/debit cards and Contactless, New York Subway still requires a Metro Card. They can be bought at vending machines at most stations and can be refilled as and when needed. Any trip costs $2.75, whether it is one stop or 50. If you are taking the Path Trains to New Jersey, it is an additional $2.75 and $5 if you are taking the Air Train from Jamaica Center to JFK Airport.

As of a month ago, some stations have installed contactless and Apple Pay (and made my heart swell). However, you still need to carry the metro card to avoid having to purchase more.

As I used the Subway only over the weekends, I don’t have the special monthly passes or the unlimited ones. These too can be bought depending on your requirements.

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Once you get the hang of the subway, it is convenient to move around the city. However, no better way to explore New York than on foot!

Now that we have explored navigating through the city, here’s a list of my top picks on what to do in the city!

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Parks and Recreation 

The beauty of this city lies in the access to numerous parks. From Prospect Park in Brooklyn to Central Park in Manhattan, they all deserve the same kind of love. One of my favourite things to do is walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, head towards the famous photo spot in Dumbo (for all your instagram worthy pictures) and then head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the most stunning views of the skyline.

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Bryant Park is another favorite for  relaxed afternoon of eating good food and catching up on reading.

One understands the hype around Central Park only after visiting. What I have come to realize is that never have I been to the same spot more than twice. Each time I go to Central Park, I end up at a new place, and it gives me the satisfaction of having witnessed another piece of New York. Don’t miss Bethesda fountain! I hope that soon enough, I can share some secret and specials spots at the park!

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And if there’s one park I have gone on almost every weekend is Washington Square Park. I ended up going very often to check out the famous N.Y. Dosas run by a Sri Lankan man for over twenty years. On two occasions I returned because the line would have lasted for nearly three hours. But thanks to that , I stumbled upon a Kathi roll place and satisfied my inner Desi with a Paneer Roll!

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Chasing the Skyline

Can one ever truly get enough of the those magnificent structures standing tall, owning the world?

  1. Brooklyn Barge or NYC Transmitter Park
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By far the best one I have seen! There is a reason why I am an aspiring Brooklyn Girl ❤

2. Pier C Park, Hoboken, New Jersey

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Manhattan clearly prefers a Hello from the other side!

3.Staten Island Ferry

 

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4. Brooklyn Bridge

 

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One can never get enough of this epic walk and spectacular views!

5. Rooftops!

 

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Find someone who knows someone, who knows someone with access to private rooftops 😉

 

 

 

6. Top of the Rock

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If like me, you would match rather see the Empire State than the view from the Empire State, I would recommend going to Top of the Rock, the viewing deck at the Rockefeller Center. The 360 degree views are unbeatable and don’t miss the sunset!

7. Penthouse at the Roger Smith Hotel 😉

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Salut! To the fabulous four months in New York! Leaving you with the view I am grateful to be able to witness each day!

Let me know in the comments below what you would like to see covered in Part II!

 

 

 

 

 

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Mantri to Manhatta

Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will?
– Jon Bon Jovi 

I remember the first time I watched Bon Jovi’s song ‘It’s my life’ on the television. I was about 6 years old, and I had no clue about what the lyrics meant or why the guy was shouting out random words. But what I did know was there was a guy who wanted to be some place that really mattered to him, and come what may he was going to get there.  I wanted to be that guy; running, climbing over fences, being bold enough to face ten dogs, crossing every hurdle that came my way to reach a destination so worthwhile (Reminder: this post is about dreams, so do not question my ability to over imagine at six)

Here’s a link to reminisce the beauty that is Bon Jovi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vx2u5uUu3DE

When the song came out, we used to live in a place called Mantri Housing in Pune, India. This house has quite a lot of significance, but here are the top three reasons:

  1. It was the first house that was purchased by my father and his brother
  2. My mother was married into this house
  3. I was born here

Living as a joint family, this home thrived on unconditional love, abundance of laughter, and the freedom to dream big! 

No matter how eccentric or impossible my dreams sounded, my parents would react with the most enthusiastic ‘Can do it!’ attitude. Whether it was getting the barbie doll from Crossword or landing on the moon, my parents never differentiated between which of the two could be achieved, because they both had the same probability. If it weren’t for their immense belief in me and my dreams, I wouldn’t be here typing about how I achieved my biggest one yet.

Let’s fast forward to 2014, when I was pursuing a Bachelor’s in Bangalore. My friends and I used to live in a hostel in an area called Kormangala.  The balcony of our room had quite the view of the city, but also the tip of a building called UB City which is a famous spot for indulging in luxury.

UB City

I am not sure if you see the very acute resemblance that I do, but every time I would see UB City from the comfort of my balcony, I would tell myself that one day, I will be looking at the Empire State.  And ladies and gentlemen, the very same year, this happened:

I was right there, next to this beautiful beast that deserves all the attention that it gets on a daily basis. A lot of people had a role to play in making this possible. My parents, my best friend Sneha and her family, and the Immigration officer. I was here, in the City of Dreams, seeing every rom com come to life, walking in between hustlers and dreamers. I had gotten a taste of New York. It was no more a city for me, it was an emotion. Having explored the city with two of my best friends Sneha and Prerana, my love for the city grew by the minute. If there was one thing I knew by the end of the trip, it was that I would come back for this city, and I would come back to live and not just stay, because the latter would never be enough.

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Cheers to the Dreamers, Doer’s and Believers. This world is yours to conquer!

After I returned to India, anywhere I lived would always have a piece of New York in it. I would place it in such a way that it would be the first thing I saw when I woke up. Everyone who knows me, knew about my unhealthy obsession with the city. So in 2017, when it was time to apply to colleges for my masters, NYU was on the top of my list. I had believed in it so strongly, for so long that I just knew there was nothing that could stop me.

Except: NYU never processing my application because I had only 15 years of education as opposed to the 16 that I needed. I had been so confident about getting in, that I never realized what the alternative would feel like. There was a lot more to this story, but to give you an idea, it felt like I would never be able to fulfill the dream. As always, my mom came into my room with all her wisdom and said, “you just wait and watch, you won’t be studying there, but you will work there.” I brushed it off thinking ‘Mom, not with the current political situations.’

In November 2018, I had the opportunity to interview with a Boutique Hotel in New York. My close friend from Les Roches had been working there for 6 months already. She is someone that gave me so much to look up to, and the thought of getting a chance to work with her meant a bonus to my big dream!

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Héléne was my Pin Buddy at Les Roches (kind of like a mentor) and she has stuck by it ever since she handed me down her pin, guiding me and protecting me!

When I finally interviewed at the Roger Smith Hotel, Helene was more thrilled than I was. She was constantly giving me updates about what was happening and whether I stood a chance, she also played a crucial role in moving my application ahead. Her energy was a major boost for me and I started to believe in my dream again. New York, would it really be possible? So soon? Manifestation works?

But I didn’t want to get too excited about in the fear of jinxing it. But then on December 1st, I was with my Les Roches friends devouring some fondue, when I got the email saying I had been accepted as a Management Trainee at the Roger Smith, the little New York Hotel!

What? 

Was this real? 

Till the time I sat on the fight to New York, I refused to believe that it was truly happening. That I was going to be fulfilling my biggest dream.

22nd February 2019, I was welcomed by my new family, full of warmth and happiness (and maybe some tequila) in New York City.

As a group of seven trainees from different parts of the world, we have the opportunity of training at the Roger Smith Hotel for a year, where we learn from industry experts while rotating across different departments to understand the nuances of working in a hotel.

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Mantri to Manhattan, First day of School V. First day of Work. Bag Upgrades, Consistent with the shoes.

Here’s to dreaming, believing and doing!

(And listening to your mom!)